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BWW Previews: SUMMER AND SMOKE at Tennessee Williams Threatre Company

Production runs August 5-21

BWW Previews: SUMMER AND SMOKE at Tennessee Williams Threatre Company
Photo by James Kelley

One of Tennessee Williams' most "devastating and glorious" dramas will pick up the second half of The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company's sixth season with its production of SUMMER + SMOKE.

Directed by TWTC's founding Co-Artistic Director Augustin Correro, SUMMER + SMOKE focuses on things that could have been and the things that might never come again. The story features Alma Winemiller, a minister's daughter who grew up too fast while in the shadow of the church and caring for her demented mother. Throughout her youth, she pined for the attention of the uninhibited, passionate boy next door, John. After John returns to his hometown, the torch Alma holds for him has never burned brighter. But will her desires consume her, or will they be snuffed out by the expectations and repression she's accustomed to? And what of the man who holds her affections? Will he be around by summer's end?

This underrated gem of Williams' canon deals with love, loneliness and self-destruction. Written in 1947, the same year as A Streetcar Named Desire, SUMMER + SMOKE would become a play that Williams became obsessed with perfecting, working on the script for over 20 years since its debut on Broadway in 1948. With the familiar territory of passion versus propriety, SUMMER + SMOKE is "unabashedly poetic, poignant, and in some ways just as brutal as Streetcar," according to Correro.

"SUMMER + SMOKE has some of the most beautiful language of any Tennessee Williams play," Correro said. "There are turns of phrase that will stick with you the rest of your life, and it stands out among Williams' plays as one of the most heartbreaking. Our cast can't wait to break some hearts."

One thing Correro loves about working on Williams's plays is discovering new things in the depths of Williams' text.

"Some days it's a poetic take on life; others, it's a moment or interaction that gets more intense," Correro said. "It's like it's uncharted territory each day."

According to TWTC, the production was planned to be staged in 2020 for a season focusing on life in the South as "othered" people, particularly queer people, being that the play is set in the Mississippi Delta and deals with religious and social constriction.

"Let's just say I have some experience there," Correro said. "It's also the first Tennessee Williams play I was ever in, and the production I did almost turned me off to Williams altogether, so it's something I've always wanted to explore for myself, years later."

The themes within SUMMER + SMOKE are ones people can relate to, wrapped up in a period drama, which according to Correro, can be deceptive.

"The trick with period pieces is reminding audiences that under the costumes, the creature is still the same," Correro said. "We're people with all of our foibles and messiness. SUMMER + SMOKE reminds us that people-especially Southern ones, but not only!-have always struggled with saying what they mean, making their desires known, and an oppressive, repressive shadow cast by our churches and the expectations of our neighbors."

The production stars Elizabeth McCoy as Alma and Justin Davis as John, along with an ensemble featuring several TWTC veterans and new faces.

"Justin Davis and Elizabeth McCoy are some of the most dedicated performers I've ever met," Correro said. "They've been preparing all summer and spending so much time and energy on these roles that I can't wait for audiences to see them do their work."

The cast includes robert mitchell, Gwendolyn Foxworth, Yvette Bourgeois, George Trahanis, Mariola Chalas, Gil Angelo Anfone, Mia Frost, Lizzy Bruce, and Matthew Boese.

A signature aspect of TWTC is its production elements, which aid in re-imagining classic Williams stories for contemporary audiences. For example, the scenic design by Steve Schepker will be a tribute to the disjointed relationship of the two leads.

"While only a few steps separate their home spaces onstage, through lighting and staging, we'll be able to make them feel intimately close or like there's a vast gulf between them," Correro said.

Other production elements will include lighting design by Diane Baas, supporting a character's isolation, and suggestive period costumes by Grace Smith that will outwardly reflect the character's inner life. The signature soundscape of TWTC by Nick Shackleford will provide underscores that will elevate and underpin Williams' words.

Correro's vision for SUMMER + SMOKE involves heightening the characters' tensions so that audiences can laugh and be aghast at how much they see themselves reflected in these folks onstage.

"I can't wait to hear Alma and John suck the air out of the room with some of their moments together," Correro said. "The audience will be in one moment amused by Alma's strangeness and in the next stunned by her sensuality. The transformation both characters undergo, portrayed by these two brilliant actors, is sure to be devastating in a rewarding way."

SUMMER + SMOKE opens Friday, August 5th at the Marigny Opera House. For tickets, please visit

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From This Author - Tara Bennett

Tara Bennett is a Jill-of-All-Trades who currently serves as the Media Coordinator for the Hammond Regional Arts Center in Hammond, LA, and served as the Arts & Entertainment editor of DIG... (read more about this author)

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